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NJ power plant owner to temporarily shut 2 units

The owners of the B.L. England plant in New Jersey notified the regional grid operator that they plan to deactivate two units this spring.

PJM Interconnection LLC on Dec. 29, 2016, received the notice that B.L. England units 2 and 3 are scheduled for deactivation by April 30, according to PJM's list of future deactivation requests. PJM is still evaluating any impacts to reliability from the announced closures, according to the list. Russ Arlotta, vice president of asset management and development at RC Cape May Holdings, which owns the plant, said the deactivation is "temporary pending repowering."

A 2014 consent order agreement specifies a May 1, 2017, retirement date for unit 2. Though the consent order requires that unit 2 be repowered by May 1, 2018, Arlotta said the deactivation request remains "open until repowering."

"We are still working toward repowering and it is an option," he added.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, or DEP, on Sept. 16, 2016, approved RC Cape May's application to renew its air pollution control operating permit. In its permit application, the investment firm proposed to repower unit 2 with a 447-MW combined cycle plant that can also burn ultra-low sulfur oil. RC Cape May would decommission unit 3's boiler and associated cooling tower once the new combined-cycle unit is operating, according to the renewed permit, which remains in effect until Dec. 29, 2020.

The repowering of the B.L. England plant hinges in part on obtaining gas from South Jersey Gas Co.'s proposed 21.6-mile pipeline, the approval of which has been stuck in litigation. The pipeline project has raised concerns among advocacy groups including the New Jersey Sierra Club, Pinelands Preservation Alliance and Environment New Jersey. The route of the pipeline, as proposed, would cross about 10 miles of the Pinelands National Park. New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel said it "will destroy the natural resources of one of the most unique regions in the country, while [increasing] toxic air pollution for the people living near the plant," according to a Jan. 19 news release.

Since 2014, other plants, totaling about 2,500 MW, have either come online or are scheduled to do so, rendering the refueled B.L. England unnecessary, Tittel asserted in a separate interview.

Three of the plants, including West Deptford, Woodbridge Energy Center and Newark Energy Center, have already come online, while the Sewaren Gas Power Plant is scheduled to come on in the summer of 2018.